Puget Sound sport crabbing closes

Local blackmouth season opens Jan. 1

All areas of Puget Sound will close to recreational crab fishing at sunset Friday, Jan. 2, after which all sport crabbers licensed to fish for crab in the Sound will have 13 days to report their winter catch.

State fishing rules require that all sport crabbers submit catch reports for the winter season to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife by Jan. 15, even if they did not catch any crab.

The winter crab season ran from Sept. 2 to Jan. 2.

“Catch reports are an important tool in managing the Puget Sound crab fishery,” said Rich Childers, WDFW shellfish policy lead. “We need to hear from everyone, including those who didn’t catch any crab, because more information provides greater accuracy in estimating the catch and developing future fishing seasons.”

To submit catch reports, crabbers may either send their catch record card to WDFW by mail, or file their report on a special webpage on the department’s licensing Web site. Catch record cards may be mailed to WDFW CRC Unit, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA 98501-1091. The online reporting system will be available Jan. 2 to 15 at

Sport crabbers who file their catch reports by the Jan. 15 deadline will be entered in a drawing for one of 10 free combination fishing licenses, which allow the holder to fish for a variety of freshwater and saltwater species during the 2009-10 season.

Puget Sound crabbers should also be aware of two important changes that will occur starting with the next crab season, Childers said.

First, crabbers who fail to report their 2009 summer or winter catch will be required to pay $10 before a license vendor will issue a new catch record card for the 2010 Puget Sound crab season. Second, crabbers will have the option to decline receiving a winter catch card when purchasing their 2009 fishing license. This will help them avoid a fine for not reporting a winter catch, Childers said.

Blackmouth season opens

Fishing at some of the region’s rivers and streams has been decent as the winter steelhead run continues to pick up steam. On Puget Sound, the blackmouth fishery is under way, and the catch rate could increase as additional marine areas open for salmon.

“We’ve seen a drop in effort in the marine areas since the holiday season began,” said Steve Thiesfeld, WDFW fish biologist. “But those anglers who did get out on the water have found some fish in the last several days.”

Creel checks in the region show fair fishing for blackmouth, resident chinook, in Marine Area 10 (Seattle/Bremerton).

Fishing in all open areas of Puget Sound should continue to improve as the new year approaches.

Beginning Jan. 1, options will increase for blackmouth fishing, when the marine areas around Whidbey Island, area 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay) and 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner) open for salmon. Anglers in those two marine areas will be allowed to keep two hatchery chinook as part of their two-salmon daily limit.

Steelhead fishing picking up

In the freshwater, the winter steelhead fishery is under way throughout the region. The fishery usually peaks around Christmas, but there have been reports of anglers continuing to hook some bright steelhead in several rivers, including the Skykomish, Snoqualmie, Skagit and Cascade.

Brett Barkdull, WDFW fish biologist, said there have been decent numbers of steelhead being caught in the Skagit and Cascade rivers, which are both running low and clear.

“They’re catching a few steelhead in the Skagit, and the Cascade has been very good at times,” he said.

While most anglers have turned their attention to winter steelhead, some are still finding some chum salmon in the region’s rivers.

Barkdull reminds anglers that chum retention, however, is prohibited when fishing on the Skagit River.

Waterfowl hunting continues strong

Fields at the Skagit Wildlife Area are now flooded thanks to the recent snowfall and melt and waterfowl, as well as hunters, have increased in the area.

Conditions for hunters continue to improve as cold fronts move into the area, said Don Kraege, WDFW waterfowl manager.

“If we continue to get cold, blustery weather, waterfowl hunting should continue to be productive in the region,” he said. “Especially now that the temperatures have droped low enough in the Fraser River valley, pushing birds from British Columbia south into northern Puget Sound area.”

Waterfowlers in the region have through Jan. 25 to hunt ducks and geese.

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